Enormously popular WhatsApp goes free: gains iCloud chat backups and other features

WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

WhatsApp, arguably the most popular cross-platform chatting solution, has just gone free on the App Store. We’re not sure whether the move is part of the upcoming iOS subscription switch or if there was a change of heart.

Either way, we’re not complaining. Previously a 99-cent download, WhatsApp for the iPhone and iPod touch is now provided free of charge (jump past the fold for the fine print).

In addition, the app’s been updated with the much-needed ability to back up your chats to iCloud so you don’t loose your chat history upon reinstalling WhatsApp. Other changes in WhatsApp 2.10.1 include support for URL schemes and the ability to send multiple photos at the same time…

URL scheme is a useful feature that allows WhatsApp to integrate more tightly with other third-party apps, provided you’re familiar with URL schemes in the first place.

When the App Store in May hit the 50 billionth download, Apple said WhatsApp was the sixth most popular paid iPhone app of all time, despite costing 99 cents a pop.

WhatsApp promised to detail its upcoming subscription model for new users by year’s and and if iTunes release notes are an indication, the app will be free for the first year and then cost $0.99 per year.

WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 005)

As for iCloud support, to manually back up your chats navigate to WhatsApp Settings > Chat Settings > Chat Backup and hit the Back Up Now button. And if you want to enable the automatic backup feature, just set the Auto Backup frequency to Daily, Weekly or Monthly.

iCloud backups include media files received and sent in chats, except for videos. A word of warning:  you’d be wise to limit Auto Backup to Wi-Fi only in order to avoid unwanted cellular data usage.

WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 006)WhatsApp 2.10.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 007)

This has to be done outside the app so navigate to your iOS Settings > iCloud > Documents & Data and set Use Cellular Data to OFF (to disable cellular iCloud data for all apps that support it) or set just the WhatsApp entry to OFF.

So what are you waiting for?

Go grab your free copy of WhatsApp from the App Store Inc.now.